BHUBANESWAR: Viral hepatitis kills around 1.4 million people worldwide every year. Crores of people are affected by the disease annually and most are not aware of their status. More people will be infected unless there is a massive scale-up in screening, diagnosis and linkage to care, opined experts at an event organised by Kalinga Gastroenterology Foundation (KGF) to observe World Hepatitis Day here on Friday.
Delivering the Blumberg Oration, instituted in honour of the Nobel Prize winner for the discovery of the Hepatitis B vaccine Prof BS Blumberg, renowned hepatologist Prof Sanjaya Satapathy from North Shore University Hospital, New York, said, “Chronic patients who don’t access appropriate diagnosis or treatment services could eventually develop cirrhosis, liver cancer or other liver diseases. In the majority of cases, doctors can easily prevent the disease using vaccines, or treat it using antiviral drugs.”
Chairman, KGF Prof SP Singh said around 325 million people are infected by viral hepatitis, of which 240 million suffer from chronic hepatitis B, while 80 million people have hepatitis C. But, 95 per cent of them are unaware of their illness, and less than one per cent access treatment.
The WHO has launched ‘Nohep’ campaign to raise awareness with an aim to eradicate the disease by 2030. “The global strategy provides a set of testing, prevention and treatment milestones for governments. If governments can meet these targets, more people can be vaccinated and treated, resulting in a 65 per cent drop in hepatitis deaths, and saving seven million lives by 2030,” Prof Singh said.
Chief guest and resident editor of The New Indian Express, Bhubaneswar, Siba Mohanty said the impact of the disease is far-reaching and affects not only individuals but entire communities and nations. Commending KGF for its work on generating awareness and providing access to vaccines and treatment for the last more than two decades, Mohanty called for multi-pronged efforts encompassing awareness, education, access and healthcare to effectively combat the burden of hepatitis.
The annual KGF Samman was presented to SN Agragami, Associate Editor of The New Indian Express, Bhubaneswar for journalistic work on public health issues. The Siba Panigrahi Sammana was presented to artist Jitendra Kumar Sahu. Among others, secretary KGF Tuhin Kanti Ghosh and convenor Prof Niranjan Rout spoke.